Dietary Diversity, Food Security, and Body Image among Women and Children on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

  • Megan F. Pera
  • Beth N. H. Katz
  • Margaret E. BentleyEmail author


Objectives: We conducted a study of the food environment and nutritional status among women and children living on a Galapagos Island. Anthropometric and body silhouette data give insight into body size perceptions for women and their young children. We frame our findings in the context of the nutrition transition. Methods: A convenience sample was recruited via word-of-mouth for in-depth interviews and assessments of household food security, dietary intake, anthropometrics, and body image. Interviews took place in 2011 on San Cristobal Island, one of four inhabited islands in the Galapagos archipelago. Twenty women with children between the ages of one and six participated, all permanent residents of San Cristobal Island. Results: Most women (60%) reported limited availability of fresh produce due to an unreliable food supply shipped from mainland Ecuador. Despite reported food insecurity in our sample (55%), more than half of the children (55%) experienced high dietary diversity measured by 24 h recall. Women tended to report less dietary diversity than their children, which may be linked to a stated desire to be thinner. Eighty percent of children were classified as normal weight, while 75% of women were overweight or obese. Conclusions for Practice: Results provide an initial survey of the food landscape on one Galapagos Island. By combining qualitative interviews with indicators of nutritional status, the narrative data allow an interpretation of issues of food security, dietary intakes, dietary diversity, and body size. This study forms the basis for a larger examination of these issues in the Galapagos islands.


Dietary diversity Nutrition transition Food security Body size silhouettes Mother–child dyad 



We would like to acknowledge the valuable support provided by the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and the Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences. We would also like to thank the residents of Isla San Cristóbal for their hospitality and assistance with many aspects of this work.

Author Contributions

B.N.H.K. and M.E.B. formulated the research questions and designed the study. B.N.H.K. carried out the study. B.N.H.K. and M.F.P. analyzed the data and wrote the article. All authors contributed to finalizing the manuscript and have approved its content.


This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (B.N.H.K., Grant No. DGE-1144081) and the University of North Carolina Center for Galapagos Studies (B.N.H.K., M.E.B.; no grant number). The National Science Foundation and the Center for Galapagos Studies had no role in the design, analysis or writing of this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest


Ethical Approval

This study was conducted according to the guidelines laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki and all procedures involving human subjects were approved by the institutional review boards of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan F. Pera
    • 1
  • Beth N. H. Katz
    • 1
  • Margaret E. Bentley
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health & Institute for Global Health & Infectious DiseasesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health CampusChapel HillUSA

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